All photos by Philip P. Giordano/PhilGPhoto.com, who filed this report for Photorecon.net…
I spent part of my Sunday morning in the back seat of a Black Hawk helicopter shooting air-to-air photographs at Leapfest, the largest, longest standing, international static line parachute training event and competition held annually by the RI National Guard at the University of Rhode Island campus.
I’ve been aboard a Black Hawk a half dozen times now but this was my first time in the ‘hurricane seat’ also described to me as the ‘hell seat’ (passenger side far back seat facing forward) due to the amount of wind that hits you when the doors are open. I got pummeled and will never choose this seat again, but it gave me the best vantage point to photograph the CH-47 Chinook jump platform for this paratrooper competition. We orbited the drop zone flying parallel to the Chinook at about 7 o’clock relative position at 1500 feet to observe the static line jumpers. With the amount of wind hitting me, shots were challenging but doable from my seat, but it was not as “fun” as my other rides.
Each team consists of five participants: four jumpers and one alternate jumper. Jumpers exit from a CH-47 Chinook helicopter at an altitude of 1500 feet (457 meters) using an MC-6 static line, steerable, parabolic parachute. They attempt to land as close as possible to one of three “X”s marked on the drop zone. Once the paratrooper lands on the ground, their time starts and it only ceases when the jumper touches the “X”. The team with the lowest combined time wins the competition. This is both an individual and team event as jumpers compete for fastest individual and team times. Each jumper must complete two jumps to be qualified for the individual award, and each team must complete eight jumps in total to be qualified for the team award.
Jumpers from 39 American and 31 international teams participated this year. “Friendship jumps” were also set up with teams from one country and jump masters from a different country working together as part of foreign exchange. It’s a great annual competition that fosters teamwork and esprit de corps across allies.
I’m very thankful to be a part of it, even if only as an observer.